Realisations from the past that will always be relevant to me and maybe others…

Last night, I was looking for an email from a few years ago, and I came across the following. Before you read it, let me explain…

Sometimes when I am relaxing at night, just before I go to sleep, I’ll have these random realisations. If I can’t write things down, I forget I’ve had them by morning. So, I often email myself if these realisations happen… and that’s what this was about.

I can’t even remember what was going on for me at that time. But I do remember the frustration I’d been feeling with certain people.

Wanted to share it in the hope it somehow helps someone else. ❤

———- Forwarded message ———
From: Kerri Jones
Date: Wed, 8 Jul 2015, 02:38
Subject: Trust own intuitive thoughts/feelings.
To:

Trust your own intuitive thoughts/feelings.

You see traits of yourself in others clearer; that’s frustrating, probably because it takes you back to times when life felt unbearble. You feel helpless because you have no control over the people you see these traits in. You know what might help them but you can’t force them to try; recovery begins when that person wants it to begin. Maybe because they reach their limits, they have a good support network or they stumble across happiness (as they will have done before), that maybe feels a tiny bit better than ever, or lasts a tiny bit longer than before. When that happens, there comes a point where you are able to appreciate it more than you ever have before and it engulfs you. And it engulfs you so much that it becomes you. As those happier feelings grow in strength, frequency and length, they soothe the angrier, more sour feelings. The addition of positive feelings neutralises some of the pain and negativity inside. Initially, there are more negative feelings than positives. But the positives carry on dripping in until eventually there are equal amounts of each. Equal amounts means one can overpower the other – positive can take the spotlight and push negative away or vice versa. In time, eventually, positive is twice the size of negative. Positive is mainly the one in the spotlight, and can, on the majority of occasions, push negative into the darkness. Ideally, negative would disappear completely, but that is not possible. For me, positive will win the spotlight at the most important times, without pushing negative away but by performing for negative. Accepting and acknowledging that negative is there keeps their relationship calm and peaceful. If either tries to deny the other then they start to battle. What you resist, persists. Don’t resist your feelings, always allow them to exist. Don’t act on your feelings without first taking time to think your actions through, as well as any potential consequences of your actions.
Always remember for every action there is a reaction. You cannot control others’ actions or reactions but you can control your own.

Why is counselling so good this time & how is it having such a positive and powerful impact?

In my previous post, you will notice I asked a lot of questions about the counselling process. This post will hopefully give you some insight into my own ideas, views and beliefs about my counselling. 

So; onto my response to my questions.

I wonder why it works so well this time? What is different this time? How had it become that I felt great after each session? Was it to do with the counsellor, or was it to do with me? And is this how it feels when it really works? Is this what counselling should look like? And if so, why had it never looked like this before?

I believe that this time around, my own approach to my counselling has been very different to previous therapies. In the last 10 years, one of the most important lessons I have learned, is that honesty and openness helps to keep me well. I don’t necessarily mean just being honest about how my days have been or how I feel now etc. I mean complete honesty as in also bringing up any issues with the counselling process too. During my last counselling session, which seems to have been the most significant yet, I spoke to my counsellor about issues I’d normally shy away from. You know, when you want to say ‘There is something I would like to say’ but you don’t feel confident enough? I wanted to discuss my own behaviour and bring up things that required a certain amount of assertiveness to it. And I did that; I brought things to the session that felt so difficult to discuss but I knew if I didn’t that it would play on my mind and eat away at me. What was different this time? The counsellor is the obvious difference. A fresh pair of eyes is always helpful. But I think the main difference is my approach. I am not going to gain much from the sessions if I am not as open and honest with the counsellor as I should be. I have learned that my thoughts and feelings are not right or wrong. They just are. I have learned so many times, that bottling something up; even the ‘small’ things, can be detrimental to my health. I know from experience, that if I don’t speak the truth about my feelings, that it takes it’s toll on me and I can become very unwell.

I do believe this is what counselling should look like, for sure. I believe that an effective partnership between counsellor and client is essential. If you don’t feel comfortable with somebody you are working with, then it’s likely that you won’t feel able to bring your most difficult feelings to the sessions. Feeling great after sessions isn’t just about having a ‘buzz’ from getting things off your chest; it’s also about feeling motivated, confident in your own abilities and inspired to make changes; no matter how small. 

I think that counselling this time around is so different because I am so different to how I used to be. I know a lot more about myself, through all my previous therapy, and I’m lucky enough to have become assertive throughout my life (not just in counselling).

That does not mean I have assertiveness down to a tee. There are some areas in my life where I still struggle a lot. But, if it can change and improve in other areas of my life, I know it can change in all areas. I just have to be patient with myself enough for it to come in time.

So… the key, for me has been: authenticity, transparency and honesty. In general, we get back what we put in. So going into anything half-arsed means you won’t experience the optimum benefit. Holding back only means you prevent yourself from taking another step forward. Only you can change that; with the right person/therapist. It’s a combination really then.

A good therapeutic relationship in which you feel safe enough to do or say things that may enable you to learn about yourself, along with a drive within you that makes you want to improve things, will equal success. Whether it improves your own self-belief, self-esteem or confidence will mainly depend on how much of the real issues you discuss. 

This time around, therapy is different in the sense that I am not learning skills I didn’t have; it is more about re-connecting with my current skill set. Of course I am, and may continue to learn new skills too, in the process; which is a bonus.

The quote below is one of my favourites, and by one of my all-time favourite writers; Erin Hanson. Don’t be afraid of falling. Just go with the flow. Take risks and believe in yourself. You have what you need, inside. You just need to access it ❤ something that my counsellor has recently reminded me of. She’s spot on! 

How should counselling feel? Mumbo-jumbo, questions and.. shit! 

Those who know me will know I am always open and honest in my writing and I don’t hold back; especially when it comes to mental health.

Towards the beginning of this year I decided to re-enter into ‘therapy’ after my GP suggested it could help me to come to terms with my deteriorating fatigue and pain. I self-referred, as per my GP’s advice, to the primary care service. Within a week of referring myself I had a telephone consultation with somebody, so I could explain what had been happening. This enables the service to then signpost or offer further support. I discussed my inability to come to terms with the fact that I cannot do what people of my age can do; as a result of physical and/or mental health problems. I cannot work, because every single day is different. I do not know how bad or good I may feel. I struggle to wake up to an alarm; no matter how early or late it may be. Some days I struggle to simply wake up and it can take me the whole day to ‘come to’. Those days, I rely heavily on Bex helping me out (I’d be lost without her). I struggle to concentrate for long periods of time. Sometimes I cannot concentrate on anything. I have slowly gone from being somebody who is super organised, to somebody who relies again, heavily on Bex to help me remember appointments. Sometimes, if not all the time, Bex will have to remind me of my plans for the day, several times. Only yesterday she had to remind me of something over and over again. And still, I need a reminder within 1 hour of that appointment because my memory just struggles so much to retain information. 

Anyway, back to this telephone assessment. After about half an hour it was agreed that I could benefit from some counselling. Initially, as with most places, I could have 6 sessions with the potential for a further 6 if needed. I was happy for my name to be put on the waiting list. Then she informed me that the wait was 6 months at the very least. Great. I actually genuinely understand that resources are stretched and I am not saying people should be seen ‘immediately’. However; my GP suggested counselling because I am struggling now, not in 6+ months. 

I knew at that point that I was going to have to look for something. After a bit of research, I found somebody that offered online counselling sessions; ideal for me. It means I can have counselling without having the added stress of physically going anywhere. Plus, it helps me to feel ‘safer’ having some anonymity. The cost of going private means I can’t have weekly sessions; which is the ideal. But, the way I felt at that time meant that every fortnight would still be better than nothing.

After an initial conversation online, with a counsellor, I kind of knew she was the right one. And I have to say; this is THE best therapy so far (and I have had a lot in my time). After a session yesterday, I got thinking about the process. I wonder why it works so well this time? What is different this time? How had it become that I felt great after each session? Was it to do with the counsellor, or was it to do with me? And is this how it feels when it really works? Is this what counselling should look like? And if so, why had it never looked like this before?

So many questions running around a tired, tiny brain. I have some potential ideas in response to those questions, which I will happily share with you in my next post. So watch this space 👍

Annnnnnnnd relax 😊❤

Mental health care; Sara Green was not a ‘one off’

I’m watching Panorama, I’m broken inside: Sara’s story. I feel really saddened that none of what I’m hearing is a shock to me; because I have either seen things like this or experienced things like this. Luckily for me, I never managed to succeed in my suicide attempts. Sadly, 17 year old Sara Green, in this episode, died in a psychiatric unit for children & young people. She made a wire ligature and sadly couldn’t be saved. 

I have no idea where to start to be honest.  First the fact that she was moved into inpatient care miles away from her family. So far, they lived on tuna sandwiches for a week so they had enough money to travel to see her. And they could only financially manage to visit her twice a month. That was a close call for me on one occasion when there were no beds locally and I might have gone to yorkshire. Lucky for me, a bed in a neighbouring borough became available. 

The staff at The Priory, where Sara was being cared for, cut off her hair using ligature cutters, whilst she was being restrained. Why? Because she had threatened to ligature using her hair. Now, where do you draw the line? How is this not assault? I fully agree it’s important to keep vulnerable and unwell people as safe as possible by first, removing or reducing any risks. If she had blades they’d have been removed. But they would take her sight so she couldn’t seek out more blades. They wouldn’t chop off her legs if she threatened to abscond. But it’s fine for them to hack her hair off? Personally, I think that’s a disgrace, but that’s just my opinion.

Having been in hospital many times before, I fully understand that certain behaviours can be learned through seeing other patient’s do things. To be honest, before I first went into hospital, I’d never considered ligaturing as a way of self harming or attempting suicide. But on each stay in hospital, I’d usually clock up a few ligature attempts in my notes. The first time somebody else on the ward ligatured, unfortunately for me, it was a serious one. I heard all the commotion, the alarms, staff shouting to each other down the corridors, their bunches of keys clashing as they ran to their patient and colleagues. I remember lying on the bed, heart pounding, felt terrified. And whenever I felt the need to self-harm or attempt to end my life after this, I would usually find or make a ligature. Usually when I did this, it was a suicide attempt. Whether or not I actually wanted to die, I don’t know. At that moment in time, I felt like, and thought that I did. But looking back, I realise that deep down, I usually wanted to be found, stopped and supported. I was always found (thankfully), and stopped. Hardly ever supported though. Usually, I’d have my room stripped. On one occasion, my room was stripped of everything. I was lay on the bed in a state after I’d just had a ligature cut from my neck by staff. The ligature was removed and all staff in the room left. I lay crying alone, feeling so desperate. A couple of minutes later, 2 staff members came into my room, armed with bags. They literally took all my belongings from my room, stuffed everything into bags like they were cleaning up rubbish. What happened next is something I still feel humiliated about. They stood over me asking me to take off my clothes and wear the hospital nighty they had brought for me. First, I was shocked. I refused to even move. They tried to persuade me, and when I didn’t budge, they told me that if I didn’t strip off myself, they would have to do it for me. So reluctantly, I took off my top. I took off my bottoms. Still wasn’t enough. I cried my eyes out as they sat on the bed with me and watched me take off my underwear, socks included. I put on the nighty, still sobbing, I watched them bag the clothes I’d taken off and proceed out of the room with everything I’d brought in. I sobbed for ages. I begged for my things back. But nobody saw that distress, they explained it was for my own good… That if I didn’t have anything, I couldn’t try anything. Trust me; if you were to lock me in a room with nothing, I would still find a way to hurt myself if I am in that frame of mind. There were times where I actually bit myself because I felt so desperate to hurt myself. When they found out I was doing that, I was no longer allowed to stay in my room apart from at night time to sleep. I’d be forced to sit in ‘social areas’ where they could ‘keep an eye on me’. Well I’ll tell you now, when you’re dosed up on drugs that zonk you, you really just want to sleep it off in a quiet private place. Not in the lounge where other unwell patients would come in & out, some noisy some not so!

I had one admission where they stripped my room, and I had to ask staff to unlock the cupboard whenever I wanted something. Then they would sigh and moan every time I’d ask for something, because they were so busy. Every morning I’d need my toothbrush, toothpaste, clothes, hair brush, deodorant etc. Every evening the same. For the whole of my time there (approx 6 weeks). I felt degraded, ashamed (other patients would watch as I’d follow a member of staff to the cupboard to get what I needed) & felt like I had no privacy. Picking out underwear in front of others every day isn’t a great feeling. 

Having just finished watching Sara’s story, I realise I am one of the lucky ones. The bad experiences I had were nothing compared to hers and other people’s stories. I’ve seen and heard so much, and things are continuing to spiral as the Government cut funding. Services are failing; letting both their staff & patients down so much. Wards are understaffed, staff are stressed & when incidents occur, they struggle to keep everything contained and keep everyone safe. 

It worries me, it angers me, it saddens me and it frightens me. How much longer can services go on like this?

Chronic Fatigue isn’t just about being ‘tired’, it’s about my whole life

“I’m exhausted” is all I say these days. I get so tired it drives me to tears; tears that are for more than one reason. I cry because I’m so physically exhausted I feel ill, and I cry at what that brings – it interferes with my personal, social and work life. Sometimes I have to let people down at the last minute because my energy has depleted before my day has even started. Even if I’d had a fab sleep, I could wake up feeling like I’ve been up all night. Some nights I am up all night. I hate sleepless nights, I’m always so bored. Nothing interesting on tv, most people are sleeping, even the dogs don’t wanna know. I usually spend the night lay in bed on my phone for an hour, downstairs for a bit, back up, then back down, all the way through til the morning. My phone will bing early usually, and when it does I get excited that the world is waking up. Might sound mad, but that’s how lonely I feel when I can’t sleep, especially when I feel like I could sleep. At the moment, regardless of the amount I sleep at night, I can’t get through a day without having to go and lie down. Sometimes I lie there for hours, other times I sleep for hours. Mostly I lie there feeling absolutely physically drained, while my mind feels foggy. Through the fog, every now and then, I am anxious because I have a lot to do and don’t feel like I have time to be lying in bed for hours. That, is the most frustrating thing. Knowing that the kitchen is a mess (still), that I’ve not hoovered for a couple of days (again), that I have emails and texts to reply to (that are almost a week old). When I’m feeling “exhausted”, I’m speaking literally. My body has just enough energy to keep me breathing at times it feels, and even breathing hurts during these flares, because of the soft tissue around my ribs. Those are the very bad days; which can last weeks actually. 

I was really made up that I did the 5k run last week. Then I was bounced off that high, right back down with a bang when I realised I wouldn’t be able to do it this weekend just gone because I was still in agony and my fatigue was keeping me in bed most of the days. So frustrating wanting to do things I can’t do anymore, or having to go at a slower pace than I’m used to. 

Anyway, if I am to try and remain positive, then I should try to stop looking at what I can’t do about it and see what I can do. I’ve noticed more recently that my imaginative and creative sides are becoming more prominent again. I’m getting more ‘light bulb’ moments with ideas that just pop up. Usually something I can do with the house. My most recent idea was to upcycle an old lamp I was going to get rid of. So I should try to encourage that more in myself at the moment I think, especially when I’m feeling this tired. It will give me something to do, isn’t too physically demanding, it can be an ongoing project that I keep going back to. I need to do something so I don’t go insane. And I don’t mean insane from boredom, I mean I need to do something, because at least I won’t then be doing nothing. Doing ‘something’ is better than ‘nothing’, for me anyway! 

Body image & eating disorders. Searching for something that doesn’t exist; perfection!

Body image is something that’s always been a problem for me, and most people I think. The majority of people have some kind of ‘problem’ area. For me, it’s my legs, bum, hips & stomach. Not much then? 

I remember when my problem with weight and body image started. I was at 6th form at the time, so around 16/17. Until this moment, I never worried about it. But one day sitting in the common room, I remember looking at somebody and noticing how thin she was. She wasn’t ‘skinny’ but she had a good shape; everything was in proportion if that makes sense. And I started to then compare my own body to that of others my age. This is why I now have problems I believe; because I compare myself to others.

Every individual is different, unique! Unless you’re a twin/triplet etc, there will be nobody with the exact same looks or personality as you. There is only 1 of you in the world. Yet we constantly look at others and wish we had ‘their legs’ or ‘their figure’. Why are we so desperate to look ‘perfect’ when perfection is impossible. It is impossible to be perfect to everyone in the world because there will always be people who disagree with your definition of perfect. And you’ll never reach your own definition of perfect because you’ll always want more. 

My problems with my weight became something I obsessed over, and when I first became unwell I started to restrict my diet in order to lose weight. However, during a psychiatric admission, one of the drugs they put me on increased my apetite and my eating went completely the other way. I felt I couldn’t control it, if I saw food I wanted it. I craved shit foods and the cravings always got the better of me. I piled the weight on. Eventually I had to come off that drug because of this. Slowly from then (that was 2006) my weight reduced. Then I was diagnosed with Chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia and found exercise hard on my body. I started to sometimes overuse laxatives or make myself sick to try and get as much out of my body as I could. I was so irrational at times, and when working with the eating disorders service, I was convinced I needed to lose more weight; despite weighing about 7 stone and coming in as very underweight. It’s only recently I’ve stopped fretting as much about food, diet and weight. I won’t weigh myself as I know this can act as a trigger. If I weigh more than I imagine I do it’s a disaster. And I know my weight is up at the moment so I daren’t.

I have always been somebody who is ‘picky’ when it comes to food. And if it comes to dinner time and I’m not hungry, I can’t eat. It makes me physically bork to try eating if I don’t feel hungry. I try to be ‘healthy’ but it is harder than ever now with all the fast food, ping meals and snacks. That’s me being lazy though and something I need to work on.

My point is, everybody at some point will understand what it’s like to be unhappy with a part of or all of their body. And when you focus on your problem area, the ‘problem’ becomes bigger; you are basically zooming in on that problem area and seeing more and more of a problem. 

I now try to focus on what I do like about myself. If somebody asked me what I like most about myself it would be… My eyelashes. Such a small thing, but better than nothing. So instead of looking at your problem area, discover what you like about yourself. Remember there is nobody like you; comparing yourself to others will simply lead you down the road to hell. It will drive you closer towards unhappiness. You can’t be somebody else, and no matter how hard you try, it will not change who you are! 

The power of music in mental health!

Music has always been a big part of my life. I have always loved having music on in the background and find it easier to concentrate more when I’m listening to music, strangely. I realised how powerful music is in mental health when I was in the deepest depths of depression. More specifically, it was when I was practising mindfulness. I used to work with an online counsellor, who once tried to ‘ground’ me (bring my level of emotions down to a manageable level) by using music. She asked me to try sitting or lying in a comfortable place, with my favourite music on. I then had to try and focus on one instrument only throughout one of the tracks. I tried and tried and tried; it was bloody impossible at first to get through a whole song just focusing on one thing and drowning all the others out. I presumed I’d be drawn to piano sounds as I love listening to it. But oddly, the more I did it, I started to notice the voice was the most captivating to me. Once I’d got the hang of it I would do it every day with different songs to ‘train’ my brain and get used to being mindful; which is basically, focusing on something in the here and now, forgetting about past or future thoughts/feelings etc. Eventually the practise paid off and I’m pro at it now, with the singer’s voice being the one thing I focus on.

I then started to focus on what the words were in each song; questioning what each artist was trying to say, and noticing the feelings each song evoked in me. Sometimes, once I’d really understood the song through the lyrics, I really felt like somebody else out there knew how I felt. Other times they helped me to pass through emotive times without self-harming. Artists I really related to most included: Birdy, Ed Sheeran, Jessie J, Ellie Goulding, The Script and Professor Green. It still makes me laugh to myself that all those artists sing similar styles, then there’s Professor Green who raps!

Anyhow, what I learned is that I leaned towards songs that matched the feelings I had at that time. Sometimes the songs kept me feeling depressed, but I wouldn’t change that if I could do it again. They may have kept me there a little longer, but I didn’t feel alone because somebody else out there completely understood. I would allow myself, through the music, to sit and ‘be’. I could tolerate certain emotions based on what music I had on. One example of what might have ‘kept’ me feeling gloomy would be Birdy and her music. It’s a lot about having been hurt, which most songs are I guess, but her lyrics really represented my feelings.

A verse from Birdy’s song “Wings” really touched me and I’d spend ages listening to this song over and over again. That verse said:

Under a trillion stars
We danced on top of cars
Took pictures of the stage
So far from where we are
They made me think of you

The song, how I’d interpreted it, was about loss and missing somebody. Wishing so hard you could have them back and the pain you feel when you know you’ll never see them again. But there was one Birdy song that just blew me away. At the time I found this song, I was working on my inner-child. A lot of my problems stemmed (in my opinion) from the hate I had towards the “little Kerri”. And when I became unwell, I would feel like the little me was trapped inside my body, fighting to get out, but I wouldn’t let her. So internally I had this battle going on. And i don’t know if it was the intensity of the emotions or if it was something else, but I physically felt that battle inside. I was in pain physically, I could feel movement inside me and I was genuinely convinced she was running round inside my body. Looking back, I realise I did actually experience those physical sensations, but I interpreted them differently because of how intense they were. Like, my stomach would churn, but it would churn so much it felt like something was actually in there. My chest would pound so much, it felt like something was trying to punch its way out. My body would tremble so much all over that it felt like there was something in my veins, getting around to every single inch of my body. To try to explain the ferocity of it, the physical feelings were such that I actually felt like I ‘needed’ to stab myself in the stomach to get this ‘thing’ out of me. Safe to say, I was admitted to hospital on this occasion, and it’s great to say I didn’t harm myself too seriously. Well, I was on about songs. The following lyrics helped me to connect with my inner-child. The song was like a conversation between me and her; two separate people as I saw them then. The first paragraph of the lyrics are me talking to ‘little Kerri’. Her response is the last paragraph.

Remember once the things you told me
And how the tears ran from my eyes
They didn’t fall because it hurt me
I just hate to see you cry
Sometimes I wish we could be strangers
So I didn’t have to know your pain
But if I kept myself from danger
This emptiness would feel the same

I want to tell you that I’m sorry
But that’s not for me to say
You can have my heart, my soul, my body
If you can promise not to go away
I ain’t no angel
I never was
But I never hurt you
It’s not my fault
You see those egg shells, they’re broken up
A million pieces, strung out across the ground

So, the power of this song helped me have that conversation internally. I realised that the little me had done nothing wrong. She was bad, evil or spiteful like I’d always thought of her. She wasn’t a monster. She was a young child trying to survive. And all she needed now was for me to look after her. After listening to this song a million times, I wrote to my inner-child and expressed how I felt. I then wrote as my inner-child to myself, and let her express her feelings. They then began to understand one another, and realise that they were safe with each other. And slowly, little Kerri became part of me. “She” is no longer a person in herself; she is a part of who I am. And I have accepted her thanks to this song.

There’s a lot more I could give you on this, so let me know if you wanna read more about this stuff. I have loads of examples of how music has made a difference for me like above. Music is something a lot of us take for granted, but if you use it wisely, it can become really helpful in your own life!

Borderline Personality Disorder: We found love in a hopeless place; literally!

Relationships have always been a sticky subject with me. To be quite honest I’ve always preferred being single, and even as a teenager, was never really interested in finding a boyfriend (or girlfriend for that matter). This was possibly a lot to do with previous experiences in relationships; I usually always gave in to my partners and they usually had full control of the relationship. Even if that meant I wasn’t happy; their feelings were always put before mine (which I believe is called ‘subjugation’ sp?).

I’ve had a number of relationships, some short term, some long term. Nothing ever too serious. The fear of commitment was far too much for me. I much preferred being on my own, enjoying ‘me’ time at home on an evening, not having to check with your partner before agreeing to go out in case they’ve made plans for us etc. And I very clearly remember discussing this in a group setting about 2 years ago; “I don’t ever want to get married, I don’t want kids, I’m happy as I am and that’s that”. Anyone dared suggest otherwise I’d freak out.

There was one person in this group who I considered to be a friend. We’d not long known each other, but I instantly felt comfortable around her because she was just so laid back and chilled out. I admired people who were like that; because it was something I could never be… I did not “chill out” and was always on the go, worrying about something, feeling tense. I could never have the attitude of “don’t worry, it’ll be fine”. Being friends with her really helped me to be able to start doing that and now I’m so laid back I’m horizontal at times. I don’t worry half as much as I used to. I don’t stress about the little things like I did.

We were very good friends and I could tell her anything, with her feeling the same about me. I didn’t have any ‘feelings’ for her in the beginning. And, in my mind, I was ‘straight’; the thought of being in a relationship with my friend who also happened to be female just never entered my mind. Then eventually, just before Christmas 2014, I realised I was falling in love with her. I did have feelings for her and I loved her and wanted to be with her. You can imagine, I was pretty dumbfounded at this point; what the feck do I do now?

At first I tried pushing those feelings away. It was scary to think I might be falling for a female; I wasn’t ‘gay’. The feelings grew stronger and after finally discussing it with my CPN, I managed to work through my anxieties and fears, before coming to terms with the fact that actually, you really can’t help who you fall for. Never in a million years did I expect I’d be settling down with someone of the same sex, but it’s happening.

We told family and a small selection of close friends just after christmas 2014, and have been together since. I can honestly tell you, I have never been in a relationship like this and it certainly isn’t dysfunctional. In almost a year of being together we’ve not had 1 single argument. We talk things through, we’re honest at all times; if I piss her off she’ll tell me (in a kinder way) and vice versa. There’s nothing we ever need to argue about; if we disagree about something we’ll discuss it and work through it or agree to disagree. I absolutely love her to pieces, she is my world. I’ve never met somebody before who I felt I could spend all my time with and always be happy. Of course, we both have our own time too as that’s important, but I much prefer being in her company. She has, at times, carried me through the past couple of years, and I’d be utterly lost without her. And now I think, so what if she’s a female; I love her and she loves me and we are happy together. It’s taken a good few months for me to be able to finally tell the world we’re together, because of my fears of what other people would think mostly. But in all honesty, our happiness is much more important, and I don’t want our relationship to be a secret anymore. She is my world, she makes me laugh, I feel safe with her, she treats me as an equal; all the things I’ve never had in previous relationships.

You genuinely just cannot help who you fall for. Love came along when I least expected it, and has brought me a long way in my recovery from mental illness. I don’t think anyone needs to be out looking for ‘the one’, I think they’ll find you one day when the time is right for both of you!

Mental illness: Working with Borderline PD

Whilst I can share my own personal story of what it’s like to live with a diagnosis of borderline PD, I have also worked with a lot of people with the diagnosis; and I want to share my perspective as somebody on the ‘outside’.

I co-founded a voluntary organisation to help those affected by self-harm with my mum in 2007. Our main reason for this was to meet other people in the same position so we could support each other and know we weren’t alone. As the group grew and branched out to neighbouring boroughs, I took on the role of a bit of everything; group facilitator, manager & then chair and worked with people with a range of diagnoses. Many had been diagnosed with borderline pd, and it was these people who I really related to most. I could see the chaos in their world, I could see how they desperately wanted to change and make life better, and I also saw how they would stay ‘stuck’ in that vicious circle. As soon as things got too much for them they were self-harming without thinking about it; something I’ve spoken about within my own experiences of being impulsive. I wanted to change their lives, and felt determined to help. But let me tell you, it didn’t half drain me emotionally. Most likely because I wasn’t equipped to deal with my own stuff let alone anyone else’s. But I never gave up on them, on anyone really regardless of their diagnosis. I went to A&E with people who had overdosed, I went to the walk-in with people, I called numerous ambulances, called the police on several occasions when I was concerned about somebody’s welfare and spent hours upon hours on the phone referring people or chasing up referrals. The local mental health trust I worked with (which also happens to be the same trust that I’m under) were brilliant, eventually. I think most professionals were a bit wary of a group being started at first. There was probably a misunderstanding somewhere about what we actually did at the group (ie, was it an unhealthy group), and a lot of question about the safety of people who were a/ being supported and b/supporting others. In 8 years we haven’t lost any members to suicide. I don’t know if that tells you about the support we gave (and that people still give through this organisation) to members, or if that, the majority of times self-harm is about surviving the most difficult things we face rather than about trying to kill ourselves.

It’s nice to see that most of the people I’ve come across in this work are doing a lot better than they were; because of support from friends and/or family, mental health and community services, counsellors, GP’s; anyone really. Most importantly because of the person themselves being open to change, being willing to push themselves so far out of their comfort zone they can’t begin to imagine and being willing to try something different. I try to explain stopping self-harm as similar to stopping smoking, or drinking etc. You have to give yourself a good talking to, take a deep breath and just go for it with all you’ve got. You might relapse, you might not; whatever happens in the future you deal with as it happens. Focus on now, trust yourself and let other people help you.

Somebody very very close to me always says “if what you’re doing now isn’t working, you need to try something different”.

I couldn’t agree more.